‘Relief Work’ visa offered to flood aid providers - Tariq Butt - Monday, August 23, 2010

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to issue three months “relief work” visa to genuine foreign assistance and relief providers in connection with flood relief work.

The special facility will not be available to the Indian and Israeli nationals, said a letter of the ministry of interior to the foreign affairs ministry that was asked to circulate it among all Pakistani diplomatic missions abroad.

A policy/standard operating procedure (SOP) has been approved to facilitate the aid workers/relief providers coming to Pakistan to provide assistance/relief in the flood-affected areas.

According to this policy, the Pakistan missions abroad will grant three months “relief work” visa to aid workers/relief providers taking part in relief/rescue operation for the flood victims. The facility will be available to United Nations officials and international aid workers.

The SOP said that Pakistani missions would provide the relevant details to the interior ministry of organisations/relief workers who have been granted visas.The aid workers/relief providers from well-known organizations will be granted Visa on Arrival or VOA (Gratis-without payment of fee) initially for a period of three months by the Federal Investigation Agency (Immigration) at the entry points including airports.

The in-charge officers of immigration at all entry points of Pakistan have been directed to immediately provide details about such persons to the interior ministry. Saeed Ahmed, deputy secretary, has been designated as resource person at the interior ministry, who, in case of any difficulty in obtaining VOA on any entry point/airports, should be contacted.

A similar visa facilitation policy was introduced after the 2005 earthquake that flattened several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir. It was put in place after complaints from genuine aid workers surfaced that they were facing difficulties in getting timely visas.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has asked people at large to provide food items including liquid milk (milk packs with sufficient expiry date) for children and families, dates, high nutrition biscuits, food packets consisting of tea, sugar, milk powder, vegetable oil, pulses and spices.

Non-food items including water cooler, cooking utensils, footwear for children, mosquitoes nets/repellants, bed spread, tents, blankets, floor mattress and tarpaulin; and personal hygiene kit including soap, tooth paste, diapers/pampers for minors, hand towels, female sanitary pads, washing powder, ORS, prickly head powder, water purification tablets, children anti-rash cream, candles and match boxes are also required for the deluge hit areas.

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